Top News Stories ~ 1st – 7th March 2021

1. VOLVO TO GO FULLY ELECTRIC

Volvo Cars is to go fully electric by 2030. In order to meet its target, the company will look to remove cars with internal combustion engines – including hybrids – from its global offering by the end of the decade.

The carmaker is also planning to invest heavily in online sales, which means that their customers will be able to order cars to their own specification online, but also through a dealerships who will still be “heavily involved in the process”. Volvo also says that switching to a set pricing model will eliminate the need to negotiate, which it says will “increase transparency and builds trust”.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

Volvo Cars are part of the many car companies who have committed to going fully electric, including Ford who has pledged to be fully electric by 2030 and invest $1 billion in an electric vehicle production facility in Cologne, Germany, and Jaguar Land Rover who have said their Jaguar vehicles will be fully electric by 2025.

This follows the UK governments plan and pledge to ban the sale of non-electric cars by 2035. It is part of Boris Johnson’s call for a “green industrial revolution” to create new jobs in future technologies and tackle the climate crisis, which will also be fantastic for the economy. The UK has set a target to be a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

Image: Volvo Cars

2. BOOHOO FACES POSSIBLE IMPORT BAN

Boohoo, the online fashion retailer, are facing the possibility of a US import ban because of widespread allegations over the use of slave labour.

It has been claimed that Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the Leicester factories which make many of its clothes. Duncan Jepson who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery, has said that the evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is “quite compelling” and is a “wake-up call for British institutions” surrounding how they handle modern day slavery enforced labour.

Boohoo has 14 million online consumers and is thought to be the UK’s fastest-growing fashion retailer. They have expanded rapidly since it began in 2006 and last years its sales rose from 40% to £1.235bn, with profits of £92.2m. Just within the last few months, they have bought Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Burtons, Warehouse and Oasis.

Saeed Khijili, chairman of the Textile Manufacturers Association of Leicestershire, said a US import ban would hurt, but insisted factory working conditions had improved. He also said he was “100% confident” that there will not be a problem in Leicester, even if the American government took action.

Boohoo has said in a statement that they are “confident in the actions” they are taking to ensure of all their products meet and exceed the US Customers and Border Protections criteria on preventing the product of forced labour entering the US.

Photo: Alamy

3. AMAZON OPENS TILL-LESS STORE

Amazon has opened its first UK till-less store in Ealing, West London. Shoppers fill their basket and cameras register what they pick up. They do not need to go to any checkouts and instead are charged through the Amazon Go app when they leave the stores.

Natalie Berg, an analyst with NBK Retail, said “Having a physical presence will enable Amazon to address some of its weaknesses, like the mounting cost of deliveries and returns”.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

Having shoppers pick up items to fill their baskets without scanning them or keeping track of everything they have bought may not be very attractive to those on a lower income. People may not realise how much they have spent and could end up overspending without realising. This raises questions as to whether this new strategy only really benefits those with a higher income.

Retail expert Harry Wallop has said that, as shoppers are not required to handle over any information or details to buy things other than the app, privacy concerns should be “pretty small”.

Sainsbury’s tried till-less shopping in London in 2019 but ditched the model because customers did not like having to scan products with their phone and was “too much like hard work”. But, with the new Amazon stores, customers are not required to scan anything at all. Critics remain sceptical on how much time this will actually save for people, but seem optimistic.

Other critics, such as retail worker’s union Usdaw, shared its sense of dismay at the development and argued it could lead to job losses. In the current crisis, this strategy by Amazon to cut the number of retail jobs in stores would be unfair to retail workers. Usdaw’s general secretary Paddy Lillis believes they “deserve better”, adding “…all too often retailers are dazzled by new technology, chasing solutions to problems that don’t exist.”

Photo: BBC News

4. CHANCELLOR ANNOUNCES CHANGES

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has announced the budget for the upcoming financial year and has made some huge pledges, including a 6-month extension to the Universal Credit top up, the furlough scheme being extended to September, and National Living Wage to increase to £8.91 which now applies to 23-24 year olds for the first time.

Corporation tax will also rise from 19% to 25% from April 2023 on company profits over £250,000. This is the first increase in corporation tax since 1974, and is a huge increase – one that has not been welcomed by all companies. However, Paul Fazackerley, Independent Financial Advisor at Furnley House, said: “Corporation tax is a tax on profits, not turnover, so it is only a tax on businesses that are thriving. Businesses have had a lot of support over the last year and there have been more winners than perhaps some people realise.” The tax increase will raise £47.8bn by April 2026, the Treasury said, representing the single biggest tax rise in the budget. Sunak said it was “fair and necessary to ask [businesses] to contribute to our recovery” in light of spending of more than £100bn on emergency support for companies during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chancellor has also formerly announced the £5bn scheme for High Street shops and hospitality firms in England to help stores and shops reopen as England eases lockdown.

Photo: PA

5. APPLE FACES ANTITRUST CHARGES

Apple is facing formal antitrust charges from the EU Commission over its alleged distortion of competition in the music streaming sector. Spotify claimed that Apple unfairly restrict rivals of Apple Music on its platforms and the EU has seemed to agree. Spotify also complained against Apple over its 30% cut on in-app purchases and undue favouritism for Apple Music. The EU is expected to issue charges against Apple in the coming weeks.

The issue has come up repeatedly in recent congressional hearings on antitrust issues. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has told US lawmakers that the App Store only charges large apps such high fees while charging smaller developers far less.

Back in 2019, Apple defended itself and outlined, among other things, how the App Store has facilitated hundreds of millions of downloads of the Spotify app.

Apple have been in the news a lot recently. Fortnite owner Epic Games is currently battling Apple in the courts over the same issue. The UK’s Competition and Market’s Authority is also launching an investigation into Apples App Store terms.

Photo: Reuters

6. MARRIOTT HOTEL GIVES VACCINE BONUS

Staff at the world’s largest hotel chain, the Marriott International Hotel, will receive a bonus equivalent to four hours pay for taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the hotel chain will not force staff to get the vaccine, they believe that widespread vaccination will help reignite the struggling hospitality industry. The chain will also begin providing educational resources for staff in the US and Canada to encourage vaccination.

The Marriott International Hotel has over 30 brands and 7,000 properties across 131 countries. It suffered heavily due to the pandemic and posted a huge $267 million loss in 2020, its first annual loss since 2009.

THOUGHTS AND IMPLICATIONS

This may be the beginning of many companies and industries requiring all staff to be vaccinated, as well as countries also requiring vistors to be vaccinated.

Although the hotel chain is not imposing the requirement to get the vaccine, and is instead a choice for all staff, the monetary reward may be too attractive for people to turn down, especially for those who have been seriously affected financially due to the pandemic. Perhaps instead, the hotel chain should have offered a reward such as extra holiday or time in lieu.

Photo: Getty Images


Thanks for reading! If you’re wondering how you can stay commercially aware, check out my blog post ‘How to Be Commercially Aware’.

*Disclaimer – All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. All information provided aims to educate and has been cross-checked for accuracy, but this site accepts no responsibility for any discrepancies.

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A future trainee solicitor encouraging and supporting social mobility, and showing you anything is possible.

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